Former German president faces corruption trial

Christian Wulff.jpg

Former German President Christian Wulff will go on trial in November on corruption charges, more than 18 months after the man once tipped as a successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel resigned from the largely ceremonial role in disgrace.

Wulff, who served just 20 months as president, will face charges of receiving favours, a district court in Hanover ruled on Tuesday, throwing out a bid by prosecutors to try him for the more serious offence of accepting bribes.

The former state premier of Lower Saxony, 54, rejects the charges and in April spurned an offer to settle the case with an out-of-court payment.

He was hand-picked by Merkel for the job of head of state in 2010. But he stood down when prosecutors asked parliament to lift his immunity, saying they suspected he had accepted undue privileges.

The charges stem from a visit by Wulff in 2008 to the Munich Oktoberfest beer festival, when prosecutors say film producer David Groenewold covered Wulff's expenses. Groenewold will also stand trial.

Wulff's reputation took a hammering when newspaper Bild accused him of misleading the state parliament over a cheap home loan from a businessman friend. He apologised for threatening the editor of Bild with "war" if he published the story.

A stream of allegations about flight upgrades, hotel stays and gifts followed, chipping away at his credibility. Germans traditionally look to the post of president as a source of moral authority in society and a counterbalance to the government.

Anti-Communist rights activist Joachim Gauck replaced Wulff.

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